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Dec. 20, 2021, 9:51 p.m. EST

What’s worth streaming in December 2021: ‘The Witcher,’ ‘Book of Boba Fett,’ ‘Matrix: Resurrections’ and more

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By Mike Murphy

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See: Here’s everything new coming to Disney+ in December 2021

There’s also an all-new, animated version of  “Diary of a Wimpy Kid”  (Dec. 3); the nature-exploration docuseries  “Welcome to Earth”  (Dec. 8), featuring Will Smith;  “Foodtastic”  (Dec. 15), a food-sculpture competition series hosted by Keke Palmer;   “The Rescue”  (Dec. 3), a NatGeo documentary about the dramatic rescue of Thai children from a deep cave in 2018; and a ton of holiday offerings, such as “Home Alone,” “High School Musical: The Musical: The Holiday Special,” “The Muppet Christmas Carol”  and  “Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas .”

Who’s Disney+ for?  Families with kids, and hardcore “Star Wars” and Marvel fans. For those not in those groups, Disney’s /zigman2/quotes/203410047/composite DIS +2.90% library can be lacking.

Play, pause or stop?  Play. Marvel? Check. “Star Wars”? Check. Disney Animation? Check. With or without kids, these will be fun watches. Plus, if you (or your kids) can wait a month, you can see “Encanto” for half the price of a movie ticket.

Amazon Prime Video ($12.99 a month)

Amazon Prime Video has been surprisingly quiet this year (likely due to COVID-related production delays), but it looks to end the year on a high note, with the final season of its best current series, two promising new sitcoms and a couple of big-name movies.

The excellent and sprawling sci-fi epic “The Expanse” (Dec. 10, with new eps every Friday) will conclude with its upcoming sixth season, as James Holden (Steven Strait) and the crew of the Rocinante get caught up in the solar system civil war started by the genocidal revolutionary Marco Inaros (Keon Alexander), and team up with old friends Chrisjen Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo) and Bobbi Draper (Frankie Adams) to turn the tide. Meanwhile, there’s still a missing Martian Navy and a galaxy-killing alien force out there to deal with. That’s a lot for six episodes to wrap up. But showrunner Naren Shankar has suggested this may not be the end of the series — just the end on Amazon — and that there is more story to tell ( three books’ worth , to be exact).

Amazon /zigman2/quotes/210331248/composite AMZN +5.73% also has a pair of promising new series: “With Love”  (Dec. 17), a five-episode rom-com about a brother and sister’s respective love lives, with each episode set during a different holiday throughout the year, from writer Gloria Calderón Kellett (“One Day at a Time,” “Jane the Virgin”); and  “Harlem”  (Dec. 3), a new 10-episode series from writer Tracy Oliver (“Girls Trip”), about four stylish and ambitious friends that gives off serious “Sex and the City”-meets-“Girlfriends” vibes.

On the movie front, there’s Oscar-bait   “Being the Ricardos”  (Dec. 21), the Aaron Sorkin-directed drama about behind-the-scenes turmoil on the set of “I Love Lucy,” starring Nicole Kidman as Lucille Ball and Javier Bardem as Desi Arnaz; and  “Encounter”  (Dec. 10), a sci-fi thriller movie starring Riz Ahmed as a father protecting his two kids from … something bad. (Aliens? The government?) Octavia Spencer co-stars.

More: Here’s everything new coming to Amazo n Prime Video in December 2021

Soccer fans can look forward to the inside-the-locker room docuseries  “FC Bayern: Behind the Legend”  (Dec. 8), following the German powerhouse through their 2020-’21 season, and comedy fans will appreciate the return of the year-end special  “Yearly Departed”  (Dec. 23), featuring an all-star lineup of female comedians (Jane Fonda, Chelsea Peretti, Dulcé Sloan, Meg Stalter, Aparna Nancherla and X Mayo) roasting 2021.

There are also new episodes of the fantasy epic “The Wheel of Time” every week, until the Season 1 finale on Dec. 24. Reviews have been mixed, but Amazon claims it was its most-watched premiere of 2021 (while providing no numbers or comparisons).

Who’s Amazon Prime Video for?  Movie lovers, TV-series fans who value quality over quantity.

Play, pause or stop?  Pause. Only because this is such a stacked month. “The Expanse” is a must-see, and the rest of Amazon’s lineup of newcomers looks solid. But faced with tough competition, Prime might not offer quite enough to lure new viewers. It’ll all still be there another month.

Apple TV+ ($4.99 a month)

Apple /zigman2/quotes/202934861/composite AAPL +3.19% has only a couple of December premieres, but a lot of finales.

The biggest addition is “Swan Song” (Dec. 17), a new movie starring Mahershala Ali as a husband and father in the near future who is diagnosed with a terminal illness and is presented with a morally questionable solution to shield his family from grief: a clone to replace himself, a plot twist that sounds very “Black Mirror” -esque.

There’s also Mariah Carey’s musical holiday special “Mariah’s Christmas: The Magic Continues” (Dec. 3), and the season finales of “Acaplulco” (Dec. 3), “Dr. Brain” (Dec. 9), “Swagger” (Dec. 17), “The Shrink Next Door” (Dec. 17), and the series finale of “Dickinson” (Dec. 24).

Who’s Apple TV+ for?  It offers a little something for everyone, but not necessarily enough for anyone — though it’s getting there.

Play, pause or stop?  Pause. If you’re already watching those shows, it’s worth catching the finales — but if not, there’s not much new to lure new viewers (while “Swagger” and “Dickinson” are great, they’ll be there to binge next month).

Paramount+ ($4.99 a month with ads but not live CBS, $5.99 a month with ads, $9.99 without ads)

Paramount+ hasn’t rebranded to “Taylor Sheridan+” quite yet, but it’s not far from it.

The TV and movie hitmaker is set to premiere his eagerly awaited “Yellowstone” prequel “1883” (Dec. 19). The Western series focuses on the Dutton family’s dangerous journey across the Great Plains to settle on what will become their ranch in Montana. Sam Elliott, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill star. Bottom line: If you’re a “Yellowstone” fan, this is probably right up your alley.

Sheridan also has new episodes of his other Paramount+ show, “Mayor of Kingstown” in December, and keep in mind that the new season of “Yellowstone” airs on cable’s Paramount Network, but does not stream on Paramount+ (it’ll appear on Peacock in the coming months, for complicated reasons).

Among non-Sheridan content, there’s “Reno 911: The Hunt for QAnon” (Dec. 23), reuniting the entire original cast (Thomas Lennon, Kerri Kenney-Silver, Cedric Yarbrough, Robert Ben Garant, Carlos Alazraqui, Wendi McLendon-Covey and Niecy Nash) of the “Cops” spoof in a movie special whose title pretty much says it all, and there are also new episodes every Tuesday of the solid fourth season of “Star Trek: Discovery.”

Other new additions include “Queen of the Universe” (Dec. 2), a “RuPaul’s Drag Race” spinoff singing competition with an international cast of drag queens, hosted by Graham Norton; and a number of holiday offerings, including a “Rugrats” special (Dec. 3) and the rom-coms “A Christmas Proposal” (Dec. 3) and “Christmas Takes Flight” (Dec. 19).

There’s also the country music extravaganza “New Year’s Eve Live: Nashville’s Big Bash” (Dec. 31), and a full slate of live sports, including NFL football, college football’s SEC championship game (Dec. 4), college basketball and UEFA Champions League matches.

Who’s Paramount+ for?  Gen X cord cutters who miss live sports and familiar ViacomCBS   broadcast and cable shows.

Play, pause or stop?  Pause. Paramount+ is getting interesting, and could be worth subscribing for a month or two to check things out, especially if you’re a soccer or football fan.

Peacock (free basic level, Premium for $4.99 a month with ads, or $9.99 a month with no ads)

It’s not a great sign when your highest-profile new show is based on a 15-year-old “Saturday Night Live” recurring sketch, which spawned a movie that flopped more than a decade ago. But for some reason, Peacock is reviving Will Forte’s “MacGyver” spoof “MacGruber” (Dec. 16), for an eight-episode season. For a one-joke sketch that got old after three minutes, this could be a disaster.

The rest of Peacock’s December lineup is even more “meh,” including “Baking It” (Dec. 2), a new cooking competition hosted by Andy Samberg and Maya Rudolph; and “The Housewives of the North Pole” (Dec. 16), a movie that is unfortunately not a spoof of the “Real Housewives” franchise, but a holiday tale of two rival decorators whose friendship turns into a feud and tears apart a small town, starring Betsy Brandt (“Breaking Bad”) and actual “Real Housewife” Kyle Richards.

Peacock also has the Miss America competition (Dec. 16), the annual “Christmas in Rockefeller Center” special (Dec. 1) and — hey, finally something watchable! — the original, animated “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (streaming now). There’s also a solid sports lineup, including Sunday night NFL games, Premier League soccer, World Cup skiing and international figure skating; and a ton of Christmas movies, including “Die Hard” (Dec. 1, and yes it is a Christmas movie).

Who’s Peacock for?  If you like network and basic-cable TV and don’t mind ads, the free version of Peacock is great. If you’re eligible for Premium through a Comcast  /zigman2/quotes/209472081/composite CMCSA +0.22%  or Cox cable subscription, it’s also a perfectly fine free addition.

Play, pause or stop?  Stop. Unless you’re a cord-cutter who still needs live sports (which, to its credit, Peacock has a very good sports lineup), the pickings are slim.

Discovery+ ($4.99 a month, $6.99 ad-free)

Andrew Zimmern returns with the second season of his series, “Family Dinner” (Dec. 10), in which the chef and food writer visits people’s homes and has dinner with them, learning something about their culture along the way — a fine concept that has kinda been done already by Padma Lakshmi on Hulu’s excellent “Taste the Nation.”

In a Frankenstein-like mashup of HGTV and Food Network, Giada De Laurentiis and Carla Hall star in “My Dream Kitchen” (Dec. 18), as the two chefs design their perfect kitchens as part of home renovations.

Paramount+ also has a pair of holiday-themed episodes of Joanna Gaines’ “Magnolia Table” (Dec. 3 and Dec. 18), and a Rhee Drummond special, “The Pioneer Woman’s Hometown: Holiday Themes” (Dec. 11).

Gotta have some holiday-themed true crime too, so there’s “Fruitcake Fraud” (Dec. 1), a doc about a couple who embezzled $16.7 million from the world famous Collin Street Bakery; as well as “The Rise and Fall of Lularoe” (Dec. 13), a investigative doc, made with partner BuzzFeed, about the effects of the multi-level marketing company’s schemes (if that sounds familiar, Amazon dropped its own docuseries, “LuLaRich,” in September).

Who’s Discovery+ for?  Cord cutters who miss their unscripted TV or who are really,  really  into “90 Day Fiancée.”

Play, pause or stop?   Stop. Discovery+ is fantastic for background TV. But there’s not much that’s essential viewing. It’s really only a good option for those who are HGTV/Food Network/TLC superfans who’ve cut the cord completely — if you still have cable or get Discovery  channels through a live-streaming service like YouTube TV or Hulu Live, it’s just not necessary. (Besides, many of its cable shows are also available on Hulu.)

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